From landmark anniversaries, to major sporting and cultural events, not to mention the B-word, there’s plenty going on in 2019. Chris Bond looks at the year ahead.
As the eminent physicist Nils Bohr once quipped, making predictions can be a tricky old business - “especially if it’s about the future.”
He was right, of course, especially these days when the political tectonic plates seem to be shifting at a bewildering rate of knots.
At the same time, though, as Donald Rumsfeld, the one time US Secretary of Defence, famously said – there are “known knowns” and there are also “known unknowns,” and it’s in the spirit of this, and near oxymorons everywhere, that I’ve picked some of the stories to look out for over the next 12 months.
If the 20th century was a proverbial century of two halves – the first characterised by war and bloodshed, and the second by peace (mostly) and progress (at least in the field of science) – then its crowning glory, and perhaps indeed of all human history, occurred on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon.
The historic moments were captured by television cameras installed on the Eagle landing craft and the pictures were beamed around the world, watched by an estimated TV audience of around 500 million – the largest for a live broadcast at the time.
This summer it will be 50 years since that epoch-making moment and there will be plenty of events, TV programmes and documentaries marking the anniversary and examining its legacy.
Forget the space race, the naysayers who claim it was all a hoax, or the fact that Neil Armstrong fluffed his lines – he should have said: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” – this was a truly profound landmark in human history.
After a century that hitherto had been riven by conflict and catastrophe, the Apollo missions symbolised hope for a better and brighter future.
Today, there is renewed excitement in space exploration with Nasa’s next rover mission heading to Mars. The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2020 with the specific aim of trying to detect signs of past life.
It is the latest chapter in a story that in many ways began with the Apollo 11 landing.
When Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin set foot on the moon’s surface, in the Sea of Tranquility – Armstrong described the surface as being like powdered charcoal – they did so for all of us, and in doing so they showed that at our best human beings are capable of greatness and wonder - something we would do well to remember.
No prime minister in modern British political history has been as divisive as Margaret Thatcher. There are some Tory devotees who still get misty-eyed at the mere mention of her name, while there are others who never forgave her for what they saw as the destruction of industrial communities across the North.
Even in death she proved a divisive figure with ex-miners burning an effigy of her in Goldthorpe, in South Yorkshire, such was the strength of feeling towards her.
This spring it will be 40 years since the grocer’s daughter was swept to power in the 1979 General Election. It sent the Labour Party into the political wilderness sparking a bitter battle for its soul, while the former Tory leader went on to become the longest serving prime minister of the last century.
Mrs Thatcher, as she herself famously said, was not one for turning. The same can’t be said for the current incumbent of No 10, though in Theresa May’s defence she is facing arguably the greatest political crisis in this country since May 1940 when Neville Chamberlain’s government was brought down over the conduct of Britain’s war effort.
There will be much debate over the merits of Mrs Thatcher’s 11 years in power, especially given the political tumult engulfing Parliament at present.
Perhaps the measure of any leader is whether they left the country in a better state than when they took over. The problem is, the answer to that question depends on who you ask.
Last year saw the centenary of the end of the First World War, following four years of reawakened public interest in a conflict that if not forgotten exactly, had certainly been somewhat overlooked.
It was meant to be the war to end all wars, but it wasn’t, of course, and this September it will be 80 years since the start of the Second World War.
On September 3, 1939, Neville Chamberlain made a sombre broadcast to the nation informing his fellow countrymen that Britain was at war with Germany once again.
Within 10 months he’d been replaced by Winston Churchill who went on to become a national hero for his leadership during the war– a war that by the time it ended in August 1945, following the dropping of two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, had claimed upwards of 50 million lives.
This will be one of the last big anniversaries where those remaining veterans who fought in the conflict are still with us. We must listen to their testament and ensure that their experiences, and the stoicism they displayed, are not forgotten by future generations.
It’s less than five years since the Tour de France’s Grand Depart came to Yorkshire. During that time the county has established itself as a cycling capital, not only in this country but on the global stage.
It was on the back of the hugely successful Grand Depart that the Tour de Yorkshire was launched, and since its debut in 2015 it has proved to be one of the region’s most popular sporting events becoming a firm fixture on the calendar each May.
This year sees Yorkshire cement its reputation as a mecca for cycling even further when it hosts the UCI Road World Championships in September. It’s estimated that the championships will bring more than £100m to the region over the nine days of free-to-watch elite sport, with Harrogate named as the finishing hub for all the races.
The region’s cycling chiefs are also in talks to set a date to bring the start of the Vuelta a Espana – the three-week Tour of Spain – to the county.
It’s yet another sign of how big the sport has become here and, perhaps more importantly, how the world of cycling sees Yorkshire as an ideal host for such big events – a lasting legacy of brilliant Grand Depart in 2014.
Headingley hosts an Ashes Test match for the first time in a decade, and England’s players will he hoping for a better outcome than the last time the two sides met on Yorkshire’s hallowed ground.
In 2009, Australia won at a canter, trouncing England by an innings and 80 runs in the fourth Test.
However, Joe Root, England’s Sheffield-born Test captain, will be relishing the prospect of facing England’s old foe having recently led the team to a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka, meaning that they have won eight of their last nine Test matches under his captaincy.
England play Sri Lanka in the World Cup at Leeds on June 21, before the ground hosts the third Ashes Test from August 22.
Root will be hoping to invoke the spirit of the class of 1981 when England, led by a swashbuckling Ian Botham and an inspired Bob Willis, helped snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and in doing so turn the series, which England went on to win 3-1, on its head.
A little more of those heroics wouldn’t go amiss.
This is yet another big year for culture in the region. There’s the £15m redevelopment of Leeds Playhouse which is due to be completed with the theatre reopening in the autumn.
Before then there is the hugely significant Yorkshire Sculpture International, a 100-day sculpture event held from June by The Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Yorkshire is home to the famed Sculpture Triangle’ – based around these four galleries and venues – which even made it onto the pages of The New York Times a few years back.
The Lonely Planet was equally effusive, praising The Hepworth as “a new state-of-the-art gallery giving London a run for its money” and highlighting it as one of the things that made Yorkshire the third best region in the world to visit in 2014.
The region’s flourishing reputation as a major tourist destination has been recognised once again with National Geographic Traveller (UK) naming West Yorkshire in its Cool List 2019, a selection of “must-see destinations” that also includes Hong Kong, Cambodia, Oslo and Antarctica.
Next summer’s festival of sculpture, which will include new outdoor sculptures in unexpected places across Leeds and Wakefield, is one of the reasons it’s on the list. Further proof that when it comes to culture Yorkshire truly is a northern powerhouse.
B is for (you guessed it) Brexit
It’s almost impossible to talk about 2019 without mentioning Brexit (much as I wish I didn’t have to).
For a word that nobody had heard of just four years ago, it has become ingrained in our national conversation. Though the number of so-called “Bobs” – people “bored of Brexit” – is growing by the day.
The UK is due to leave the European Union on March 29, this much we do know, but with Parliament having reached an impasse and the meaningful vote postponed until the middle of next month, there is growing confusion and bewilderment both here and in Europe.
We have cabinet colleagues setting out rival plans in case Theresa May can’t get her Brexit deal through Parliament, and businesses that trade with the EU being urged to take steps prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
As for what the likely outcome of all this is going to be, that’s anyone’s guess – as BBC reporter Chris Mason said, we might as well ask Mr Blobby...